Last year, I attended the first Labour Live event held in the City of Chester. This was my report of the night. Last night, it was my pleasure to repeat the experience. As per the first occasion, it was held at the Chester Music Theatre, a brave and admirable outpost of culture in what has become a bit of a cultural desert as far the wider population is concerned. There are for example, for those of you who don’t live here and who don’t know, no big cinemas left in Chester – you have to go to Ellesmere Port to find the closest truly widescreen experience. And whilst theatrical performance is restricted to ad hoc venues, and whilst the Mystery Plays and outdoor theatre in general have their own wonderful histories and legacies, a city like Chester really doesn’t deserve to be without a properly cemented venue.
Anyhow. The Chester Music Theatre did us proud last night, and for that we must express our sincere appreciation.
I get the impression we did the Labour Party proud too.
It was an eclectic choice of music; and an eclectic audience which turned up. The presentation was slicker than last year; it was good to see crowd-rousing music from music-hall days coupled with guitar-riffed walls of sound from far younger origin. And even the comedy managed to surprise: Councillor Ben Powell not only succeeded in making us laugh, he was able to do a stand-up routine lying down in bed with a threesome of rather politically significant personages of our times!
As far as I understand it, this kind of event serves to embed Labour in a community where doorstepping, envelope-stuffing and telephone-canvassing are not the only things which the Party may – indeed, should – mean to its members. We need far more of this, of course; we need it to get covered, to get onto the news and to enter the public domain in a big way.
But for now, building on last year’s first steps, this is quite an achievement in itself. To realise, in a city like Chester, that there are ordinary people who might think like you and enjoy the same stuff … well, it’s nice to know and comprehend. It’s good when one feels the need to overcome the sense of strangeness and isolation that being surrounded by leafy wealth can lead to.
Thanks to all involved.
This, from Arnie Graf, is heartwarming. Blinking time, of course – not thinking time at all. But all the same it’s worth your time, and worth your thoughts too, in such difficult moments as these clearly are.
And so to Ed Miliband’s “basic goodness and compassion”. Not bad reasons to go into public service at all. And if one day such a couplet could be an epitaph to a long and honourable career, even better.
A suggestion then: let’s begin to rename politics. At least, rename the politics we want to do. Not call it politics any more but, instead, public service.
WDYT? Could it convince? Could we one day rescue the belief in and reality of public service from the battering they’ve received – in particular at the hands of our self-interested, money-grubbing political and media classes?
As my dear mother would say, with compassion and love anything’s possible. Sounds weird to be talking of such ideas in the same breath as politics. But perhaps that’s what public life really is missing right now. Not the private scandals between the bedsheets so beloved of tawdry newspapers. No. Rather, the emotion and appreciation which all of us behind our net curtains and roller blinds are capable of showing to our fellow men and women. We need to be as kind in public as we are behind our front doors.
Only then may public service regain its wondrous lustre.
Only then may our societies relearn how to care.
I signed a petition today. The #freezethatbill petition. The one I mentioned yesterday.
I spoke to some people on the stall. They’d been getting a good response, even getting people to join the Party. Some achievement in these unparty-political days.
I also spoke to the newly appointed full-time organiser for the constituency of Chester. He was looking for a place to stay. At least until 2015. At which point we might argue the mission will hopefully be accomplished.
He had a plan. Or maybe not quite yet. Maybe the plan still needed a bit of work.
As it should be. You can only organise volunteers when you get to know them – only then can you properly see what makes a place as different as Chester tick over; what makes it actually decide to get up and do stuff too.
A plan for Chester. A strategy for the nations that make up these islands. And maybe a sense of guilt for what we allowed to escape us last election. Looking at the sheer scale of the brutal dismantling of this social support system we spent such a long time constructing, from legal aid to the NHS, from spiritedly secular education to the beginnings of a decent social care network, there is plenty to feel guilty about.
It wasn’t just the politicians who got it wrong last time round. We did too. We ought to remember that before we lambast too much.
A plan for Chester. The plan for Chester. The plan which must include grassroots Cestrians first and foremost.
We don’t need populist messages to attract just the voters – we need populist messages to attract the activists to our ranks. Only then – self-propelled – will they decide to spread the word.
The word and the image too.